Once upon a time, local food in Baltimore meant sauerkraut and Berger cookies, pit beef and crabs slathered in Old Bay. Today, it still means all that, but also fermented radishes and pigs that spend their lives foraging for acorns in the woods. As each new restaurant flicks on the filament lights over the bar, where a bewhiskered bartender mixes a cocktail in a mason jar with herbs grown on the roof, we may be tempted to yawn. But don't. The pioneers in the local food movement are still going strong, and the standards they set remain fixed. Baltimore is dancing at the edge of the national spotlight for its inventive, quirky, and often bootstrap cuisine. The listings here are arranged by neighborhood. We're sorry we don't have the space to cover everything; go forth and discover.
($ = most entrees are $10 and under, $$ = $10-$15, $$$ = $15-$25, $$$$ = $25 and above)
The Chesapeake Restaurant (1701 N. Charles St.,  547-2760, thechesapeakebaltimore.com, $$$) A Baltimore classic revived like a breath of fresh air off the bay. Slurp some oysters at the long marble bar or recline in a leather booth for one of their nightly specials.
Lost City Diner (1730 N. Charles St.,  547-5678, $$) Flew off the radar for a bit, but here's hoping this retro space-agey diner keeps churning out shakes in the vintage Waring.
Joe Squared (133 W. North Ave.,  545-0444,joesquared.com, $$ Square pizzas, hip music, and heaps of risotto. Plus drink specials to keep the artists happy. (Now also at Power Plant Live, with additional projects in the works.)
Nam Kang (2126 Maryland Ave.,  685-6237, $$)Late-night Korean barbecue for when you don’t care where you drip. Open until 4 a.m. daily.
Sofi's Crepes (1723 N. Charles St.  727-7732,sophiscrepes.com, $) Hearty flat pancakes with savory and sweet fillings (multiple locations).
Tapas Teatro (1711 N. Charles St.,  332-0110,tapasteatro.com, $$$)Adjacent to the Charles Theatre, offering Mediterranean small plates for boisterous indie-film debates.
Classy purveyor of straightforward Indian fare, including the all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet.
The Bun Shop
(239 W. Read St.,  989-2033, $) Sweet and savory buns from all over at this artful venue, where Vietnamese coffee will keep you perked up till the 3 a.m. closing.
Belvedere 13th Floor (1 E. Chase St.,  347-0880, 13floorbelvedere.com $$$) This once-rollicking bar has transformed into a classy supper club with comfy seating, stunning views, and easy-listening live music.
b, a Bolton Hill Bistro (1501 Bolton St.,  383-8600, b-bistro.com, $$$) A neighborhood favorite with a focus on seasonal, regional goods. Worth a trip for the rest of us.
B&O American Brasserie (2 N. Charles St.,  692-6172, bandorestaurant.com, $$$) Skillful preparations of local meats, seafood, and cocktails may be inspired by the railroad barons?but with a decidedly modern twist?in a dimly lit and elegant setting.
The Brewer's Art (1106 N. Charles St.,  547-6925, thebrewersart.com, $$$) Craft brews in the busy bar, dinner in the high-ceilinged, Gilded Age townhouse, or loud music and drinking in the dungeonlike bar downstairs. Your pick.
Dooby's (802 N. Charles St., doobyscoffee.com) Fancy fair-trade coffee brewed to your preference, pastries, craft beers, and the ambitious goal of becoming a Mount Vernon social hub.
Dukem (1100 Maryland Ave.,  385-0318, dukemrestaurant.com, $$) Baltimore's quieter version of D.C. Ethiopian features shared platters of key wot (beef stew), lamb fit fit, and all manner of beans and lentils, to be scooped up with spongy injera bread.
The Helmand (806 N. Charles St.,  752-0311, helmand.com, $$) Grilled meats, eggplant, and the beloved baked pumpkin are prepared and served with panache in the Afghani tradition, by folks who know what they're doing.
Joss Café and Sushi Bar (413 N. Charles St.,  244-6988, josssushi.com, $$$) Like its better-known Annapolis sibling, this Mount Vernon spot creates inventive rolls and enticing cocktails.
Marie Louise Bistro (904 N. Charles St.,  385-9946, marielouisebistrocatering.com, $$$) The sidewalk tables and pastry display are this café's raison d'etre. There's also a full menu of French-influenced fare.
Stang of Siam (1301 N. Calvert St.,  453-9142, stangofsiam.com, $$) Fresh curries, cold cocktails, and carved Buddhas give Stang an aesthetic edge on the city's Thai scene.
Alewife (21 N. Eutaw St.,  545-5112, alewifebaltimore.com, $$) While it's a great pre-theater choice, this converted Gilded Age bank is a happy-hour favorite thanks to its extensive rotating beer menu and upscale pub grub.
Mekong Delta Cafe (105 W. Saratoga St.,  244-8677, $) Small and crowded for a reason, this mom-and-pop Vietnamese spot ladles out authentic pho.
Trinacria (406. N. Paca St., 685-7285, trinacriabaltimore.com, $) At lunchtime, you have to elbow your way to the counter, but the meatball sub is worth it. Pick up some fresh mozzarella, frozen veggie lasagna, and deeply discounted bottles of wine while you're at it.
The Yard (110 S. Eutaw St., Marriott Inner Harbor,  209-2853, marriott.com, $$$) With its commitment to Baltimore's favorite dishes and taps of local drafts, this hotel restaurant/bar is the perfect pregame watering hole.
Aldo's (306 S. High St.,  727-0700, aldositaly.com, $$$$) Impeccable service and classically prepared Italian dishes ensure that this elegant spot, with its columned atrium—reminiscent of a Roman manse—remains a favorite.
Amici's (231 S. High St.,  528-1096, amiccis.com, $$) Italian comfort food for when you're craving the red sauce.
Cafe Gia Ristorante (410 S. High St.,  685-6727, cafegias.com, $$)Pastas and salads in a whimsical atmosphere, with walls and tables painted in festive murals—plus a rooftop balcony straight out of an opera set.
Sabatino's (901 Fawn St.,  727-9414, sabatinos.com, $$$) With classic red sauce on house-made ravioli and scallopini, wines served in carafes, this place feels like Little Italy of days gone by.
Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop (222 Albemarle St.,  685-4905, vaccarospastry.com, $$) Famous for its cookies, cannoli, and cakes, Vaccaro's also serves savory soups, salads, and sandwiches including breakfast panini.
Bagby Pizza Co. (1006 Fleet St.,  605-0444, bagbypizza.com, $) Crispy flat pies draped in fresh mozzarella, local mushrooms, duck confit, and the like, plus chopped salads and bargain wines in a refurbished factory.
Charleston (1000 Lancaster St.,  332-7373, charlestonrestaurant.com, $$$$) The grand dame of Baltimore dining, Charleston continues to wow with low country-influenced tasting menus and wines. Breaking the bank is worth every penny.
Chazz: A Bronx Original (1415 Aliceanna St.,  522-5511, chazzbronxoriginal.com, $$$) Celebrity Chazz Palminteri's vision of Bronx-style Italian is carried out by the Vitale family of Aldo's fame.
Cinghiale (822 Lancaster St.,  547-8282, cgeno.com, $$$$) This large-scale Northern Italian restaurant named for a boar delivers robust flavors, seasonal specials (truffles anyone?), and carefully selected wines.
Fleet Street Kitchen (1012 Fleet St.,  244-5830, fleetstreetkitchen.com, $$$$) The chef, trained at Blue Hill Farm in New York state, brings his toe-to-tail training to fresh, seasonal produce and meats from the owner's Cunningham Farm in Cockeysville. Add an elegant, clubby setting and expertly selected wines to hit all (or most) pleasure points.
Heavy Seas Alehouse (1300 Bank St.,  522-0850, heavyseasalehouse.com, $$$) Chef Matt Seeber's menu, from oysters and artisanal cheeses to burgers and roasted duck, pairs perfectly with the suds on tap. If you're not in the mood for a brew, the rum selection may float your boat.
James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant (16 President St.,  727-5107, thejamesjoycepub.com, $$$) The pub's interior was imported from Ireland—along with a menu of corned beef, lamb stew, and bangers and mash.
Lebanese Taverna (719 S. President St.,  244-5533, lebanesetaverna.com, $$$) Tender, slow-cooked meats and Middle Eastern preparations in a spare, elegant setting. Plus the endless happy-hour hummus bar.
My Thai (1300 Bank St.,  327-0023, mythaibaltimore.com, $$$) Thai cuisine's greatest hits as well as a few breakout dishes inspired by Bangkok street food.
Pabu (725 Aliceanna St.,  223-1460, pabuizakaya.com, $$$) Japanese tavern food from crab okonomiyaki to steak with red miso—with plenty of sushi and sashimi—plus a world-class saké selection in the lush environs of the Four Seasons.
Talara (615 President St.,  528-9883, talarabaltimore.com, $$$) A festive Latin bistro with colorful muddled cocktails and a tasty selection of fusion small plates.
Ten Ten (1010 Fleet St.,  244-6867, bagbys1010.com, $$$) The Bagby Group's answer to a casual brasserie, the homey interior and locally sourced menu fit the bill.
Wit & Wisdom (Four Seasons, 200 International Drive,  576-5800, witandwisdombaltimore.com, $$$$)The Four Seasons tavern has a view of chefs busy at the open grill on one side and some of the best harbor views in town on the other. Michael Mina's American-inspired menu is inventive and sensuous, and the wines are spot-on.
Latin with a twist in a soothing setting with a comfy lounge upstairs for sipping creative cocktails.
Bertha's (734 S. Broadway,  327-5795, berthas.com, $$) Mussels and more mussels, steamed in a variety of inventive broths—along with the live jazz and blues—keep folks coming to this Fells Point staple.
Black Olive (814 S. Bond St.,  276-7141, theblackolive.com, $$$$) Choose from a selection of fresh seafood when you walk through the door. Linger over a glass of organic Greek wine and wait until your fish arrives, expertly prepared.
Blue Moon Café (1621 Aliceanna St.,  522-3940, bluemoonbaltimore.com, $$) People will wait for hours for hearty servings of such hangover palliatives as Cap'n Crunch French toast and biscuits and gravy.
Bond Street Social (901 S. Bond St.,  449-6234, bondstreetsocial.com)The large, bustling waterfront space in the old DuClaw Brewing plant is designed for mingling, with creative small plates to be shared and conversation-worthy cocktails.
Duda's Tavern (1600 Thames St.,  276-9719, $$) This tavern has a long history of serving up craft beer to sailors and also has award-winning crab cakes and 11 taps for seasonal brews.
Henninger's Tavern(1812 Bank St.,  342-2172, henningerstavern.com, $$$) This friendly hole-in-the-wall with over-the-top decor has an equally lively menu of American eats.
Jimmy's Restaurant (801 S. Broadway,  327-3273, $$) A treasured bare-bones, old-school diner in the middle of Fells Point where you can get a 16-ounce draft of Yeungling or Budweiser for $2.25.
Kali's Mezze (1606 Thames St.,  563-7600, kalismezze.com, $$$) The small Greek-inspired plates are a great way to sample the Kali group's talents.
Kooper's Tavern (1702 Thames St.,  563-5423, koopers.com, $$) Chow on a juicy charred burger while surrounded by photos of the owner's eponymous pooch.
Peter's Inn (504 S. Ann St.,  675-7313, petersinn.com, $$$) The owners' enduring passion for good food pairs well with the funky former-dive vibe.
Thames Street Oyster House (1728 Thames St.,  449-7726, thamesstreetoysterhouse.com, $$$$) Oysters, lobster, chowdah in a homey setting: New England on the harbor.
Tortilleria Sinaloa (1716 Eastern Ave.,  276-3741, tortilleria-sinaloa.com, $) The most authentic maize tortillas in town, made with a machine imported from south of the border. Folks from local immigrant communities buy them by the pound.
Waterfront Kitchen (1417 Thames St., 681-5310, waterfrontkitchen.com, $$$) Jerry Pellegrino's "seed-to-table" undertaking sits right on the harbor and serves inventive dishes, some crafted with produce grown by kids at nearby Living Classrooms.
Annabel Lee Tavern (601 S. Clinton St.,  522-2929, annabelleetavern.com, $$) This gastropub, decorated with Poe quotes and memorabilia, is probably the liveliest place named after a dead girl you'll ever find.
Bistro Rx (2901 E. Baltimore St.,  276-0820, bistrorx.net, $$$)Once a pharmacy, this corner spot in Patterson Park is a stroller lot at brunch and a convivial bar during the evening hours.
Blue Hill Tavern (938 S. Conkling St.,  388.9363, bluehilltavern.com, $$$) A beautiful setting for beautiful people who love to party on the roof or nibble from upscale plates (sous vide chateaubriand, anyone?) in the elegant dining room draped in shimmery blue fabric.
Fork and Wrench (2322 Boston St.,  759-9360, theforkandwrench.com, $$$) It may look like your grandma's attic (if she was an astronomer or engineer in the early 1900s), but the locally inspired menu and earnest waitstaff are decidedly of this era.
Johnny Rad's (2108 Eastern Ave.,  759-6464, $$) Rest your board at this bar (named for a lounge singer in an old Bones Brigade video) for a round of Skee-Ball and a totally rad artisanal pizza.
Langermann's (2400 Boston St., #101A,  534-3287, langermanns.com, $$$) Low country cooking like catfish fingers and grits in a spacious Can Company setting. Dine on the patio or check out the smaller spot in Federal Hill.
Marquee Lounge (3134 Eastern Ave.,  276-1651, creativealliance.org, $$) A pre-performance cocktail made with seasonal herbs and infusions or a full dinner from bánh mi with páté to fried green tomato crusted in Utz potato chips will get your creative juices flowing.
Moonshine Tavern (2300 Boston St.,  327-6455, bmoreshine.com, $$$) Celebrating the repatriation of hooch, this hangout is the best place around for a late-night po'boy washed down with white lightning.
Nacho Mama's (2907 O'Donnell St.,  675-0898, mamasmd.com, $$)Yes, you can still order a round of margaritas in a hubcap. Plus wings and Mexican meatloaf in an Elvis-themed atmosphere.
Salt (2127 E. Pratt St.,  276-5480, salttavern.com, $$$) The small scale makes for both an intimate setting and a personal touch with inventive dishes. Best-kept secret for romantic dining.
Shiso Tavern (2933 O'Donnell St.,  276-8800, shisotavern.com) The folks behind Blue Hill Tavern bring their hip sensibilities to this spacious Canton watering hole—with sushi too.
Sip and Bite (2200 Boston St.,  675-7077, $) The recent renovations haven't changed the classic Bawlmer food and service at this late-night favorite.
Verde Pizza (641 S. Montford Ave.,  522-1000, verdepizza.com, $$) Homemade mozzarella and imported flour make these pizzas taste like the old country. Wash it down with an Italian birra and you'll think you're in Napoli.
Federal Hill/ Locust Point/ South Baltimore
The Abbey Burger Bistro(1041 Marshall St.,  453-9698, abbeyburgerbistro.com, $$) Winner of City Paper's burger bracket, this bar has lots more than luscious burgers, some topped with foie gras and over-easy eggs. A friendly bar and "adult" milkshakes made with Berger cookies too.
Baba's Mediterranean Kitchen (745 E. Fort Ave.,  727-7482, babaskitchen.net, $) Easy on the eyes and the wallet, this colorful BYO and largely carryout Mediterranean spot has flavorful hummus and a menu of succulent kabobs and fresh salads.
Blue Agave Restaurante and Tequileria (1032 Light St.,  576-3938, blueagaverestaurant.com, $$$)Known for its menu of tequila, the Federal Hill Mex also makes a mean fajita.
Bluegrass Tavern (1500 S. Hanover St.,  244-5101, bluegrasstavern.com, $$$) Upscale downhome cooking in a rustic setting with a stone fireplace—a perfect spot for sipping from a menu of bourbon.
Harborque (1421 Lawrence St.,  685-7675, harborque.com) Smoky, vinegary Carolina-style pit barbecue, a stone's throw from Key Highway, plus great Southern sides. Try a barbecue sundae (layered beans, coleslaw and, 'cue) for dessert.
Hersh's Pizza and Drinks (1834-45 Light St.,  438-4948, hershspizza.com, $$) Innovative pizza toppings and infused cocktails are the trademark of this brother-sister DIY-inspired pizzeria. Plus small plates that take advantage of seasonal flavors.
Liv2Eat (1444 Light St.,  449-7129, liv2eat.com, $$$) Tasty plates with a personal touch from a culinary couple that lives upstairs. Plus a gem of a courtyard in the back.
Miquel's Cocina y Cantina (1200 Steuart St.,  438-3139, miguelsbaltimore.com, $$) It may seem secluded, tucked behind Silo Point, but the place is filled with festive Day of the Dead motifs and the food is packed with flavor for year-round celebrations. Plus a passion for futbol.
Mr. Rain's Fun House (800 Key Highway, American Visionary Art Museum,  524-7379,mrrainsfunhouse.com, $$$) This colorful spot on top of AVAM has a lovely outdoor deck in the summer and always makes a great launching point (or winding-down spot) for a walk through one of the city's most unique museums.
No Way Jose Café (38 E. Cross St.,  752-2837, $) Prized as much for its potent sangrias, margaritas, and sangritas as for its bean-and-cheese-heaped tacos, this Mexican joint remains a gathering spot for the 20-somethings.
The Rowhouse Grille (1400 Light St.,  438-7289, therowhousegrille.com, $$) Creative American cuisine, craft beer, and a prix-fixe tasting menu paired with wine or beer mean a favorite for locals and a destination for the rest.
Ryleigh's Oyster (36 E. Cross St.,  539-2093, ryleighs.com, $$$) Shucks, we love the oysters, grilled, baked, stuffed in tacos or raw in the shell. If oysters aren't your thing, there's crab, burgers, pasta, and more.
Silo .5 (1200 Steuart St.,  438-4044, silo.5winebar.com, $$) Select a bottle from the wall and retire to the bluestone patio to lounge in a cushy sofa, or hang at the bar and feast on tapas with the beautiful people who live upstairs.
Social Pub and Pie (25 E. Cross St.,  234-0376, socialpubbaltimore.com, $$) The name says it all at this pub and pizzeria, with friendly bartenders and reverence for televised sports.
Thai Arroy (1019 Light St.,  385-8587, thaiarroy.com, $$) Thai Arroy remains a neighborhood staple for affordable eat-in and carryout. Plus, you can BYO.
The Wine Market (921 E. Fort Ave.,  244-6166, the-wine-market.com, $$$) Seasonal plates artfully arranged to please wine lovers—who can choose a bottle from the adjacent shop or from the reasonably priced wine list.
Charles Village/ Remington
Ambassador Dining Room (3811 Canterbury Road,  366-1484, ambassadordining.com, $$$)Consistently lauded for its romance, a meal here is a beautiful thing, whether you dine inside by a roaring fire, or in the garden; á la carte or from the elaborate lunch buffet.
The Dizz (300 W. 30th St.,  869-5864, thedizzbaltimore.com, $) A neighborhood standard, we go for the burgers and beer, and stay for the company, hon.
Donna's (3101 St. Paul St.,  889-3410, donnas.com, $$$) Donna's in Charles Village is more than coffee and sandwiches. Andy Thomas crafts a tasty dinner menu suitable for date night or a family meal.
Gertrude's (10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore Museum of Art,  889-3399, gertrudesbaltimore.com, $$$$)Local ingredients and dishes inspired by the chef's grandmother, gussied up for visitors to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
One World Café (100 W. University Parkway,  235-5777, oneworldcafe.com, $$) Wifi and coffee throughout the day, this student hub is the place to go in the evening if you or your partner is vegan.
Papermoon Diner (227 W. 29th St.,  889-4444, papermoondiner24.com, $$) The doll heads and skate blades hanging from the ceiling might look trippy at 2 a.m., so focus on your French toast or shrimp and grits at this breakfast-all-day spot. No alcohol.
Pete's Grille (3130 Greenmount Ave.,  467-7698, $) On weekends you might find yourself crowded at the door, but the stools turn over quickly at this popular breakfast and lunch counter.
Thai Restaurant (3316 Greenmount Ave.,  889-6003, $$$) An old-world spot that might have provided your grandparents' first exposure to Thai flavors. Sip a scotch on the rocks and admire the carvings—and for land's sake, order the Panang curry.
Alchemy (1011 W. 36th St.,  366-1163, alchemyon36.com, $$$) The husband-wife team behind this Hampden jewel are always on-site to chat about the inventive cuisine or suggest a wine pairing.
Artifact Coffee (1500 Union Ave.,  235-1881, artifactcoffee.com, $) The homey Woodberry Kitchen spinoff serves pastries, salads, and sandwiches throughout the day, simple suppers in the evening—all with the same consideration for sustainability and local sourcing of its more sophisticated sibling.
Birroteca (1520 Clipper Road,  708-1934, bmorebirroteca.com) Robin Haas' riff on an enoteca offers much more than beer. Artisanal pizza, nightly specials like spaghetti and meatballs and crispy duckling, as well as a consistently lively bar scene.
Café Hon (1002 W. 36th St.,  243-1230, cafehon.com, $$) Big hair and hearty desserts still bring in the out-of-towners.
Corner BYOB (850 W. 36th St.,  869-5075, cornerbyob.com, $$$$) While part of the attraction of this Belgian-inspired bistro is the option to bring in a special bottle from the nearby Wine Source, the real draw is the delectable menu that sometimes features far-flung protein like wild boar and Icelandic cod.
The Charmery (801 W. 36th St., thecharmery.com, $) Hampden's newest spot scoops cones and sundaes packed with local flavor—like Maryland-grown strawberries, Old Bay seasoning, and Berger cookies.
Choux (830 W. 36th St.,  235-3442, mapetiteshoe.com/cafe, $) Adjacent to her shoe-and-chocolate boutique, Hampden booster and Francophile Susannah Siger has opened a place to sip chocolate, coffee and tea while nibbling on treats made from flaky pastry.
David's 1st and 10 (3626 Falls Road,  662-7779, $$) Way better than expected food and a collection of small-batch bourbon and whiskey keep the World Cup passions high.
Food Market (1017 W. 36th St.,  366-0606, thefoodmarketbaltimore.com, $$$) The former grocery that played a starring role in John Waters' Pecker has been transformed into a popular watering hole with a well-executed seasonal menu.
Johnny's (4800 Roland Ave.,  773-0777, johnnysdownstairs.com, $$$) The Foreman-Wolf team's foray into casual dining is what you'd expect: creative and pricey California-inspired plates, rich coffee drinks produced by an "auteur," a wine list mostly derived from domestic boutiques, and a menu of small-batch whiskeys.
Golden West Café (1105 W. 36th St.,  889-8891, goldenwestcafe.com, $$) Hampden's pioneer keeps going strong, though the Wild West has been tamed some with an inclusive and always kid-friendly menu (still encased in vintage record album covers) that includes Asian and veg-friendly meals.
Grano Pasta Bar (1031 W. 36th St.,  869-3429, granopastabar.com, $) Squeeze in at the tiny counter and watch the kitchen create your own mix-and-match pasta/sauce concoction.
Grano Emporio Pasta at Chestnut(547 Chestnut Ave.,  438-7521, granopastabar.com, $$$) The big Grano is more formal than the pasta bar and is presided over by owner Gino Troia. Try the zuppa di cozze e vongloe if you know what's good for you.
Holy Frijoles (908 W. 36th St.,  235-2326, holyfrijoles.net, $$) Burritos and nachos slathered in cheese and salsa, washed down with hefty margaritas and Mexican beer.
Miss Shirley's Cafe(513 W. Cold Spring Lane,  889-5272, missshirleyscafe.com, $$$) Over-the-top portions of Southern-influenced dishes—Old Shirley might be a good fit for Novo Nordisk now that Paula Deen's out of the picture.
Petit Louis Bistro (4800 Roland Ave.,  366-9393, petitlouis.com, $$$$) It feels like the real deal: tile floors, tables close together, waitstaff in long aprons and white shirts. The food and wine reinforce the illusion that you're in Paris.
Rocket to Venus(3360 Chestnut St.,  235-7887, rockettovenus.com, $$) Fried pickles and bonh mi in a place where tattoos are required of all the staff.
Woodberry Kitchen(2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126,  464-8000, woodberrykitchen.com, $$$$) While he wasn't the first restaurateur in these parts to embrace local, Spike Gjerde remains the most passionate. Gjerde's reputation extends beyond Charm City, making Woodberry a destination and, for Baltimoreans, a special-occasion spot.
Chiyo Sushi (1638 Kelly Ave.,  466-1000, $$) The list of rolls is almost as exhaustive as the wait for them. But it's all worth it at this family-run sushi place where you can sit at the bar and watch the magic knives at work.
Desert Café(1605 Sulgrave Ave.,  367-5808, thedesertcafe.com, $) The birthplace of Wild Pea Hummous, makers of such, um, innovative flavors as maple-bacon, mango-curry, and pepperoncini, this casual Mount Washington spot offers a menu of light Mediterranean fare. Belly-dancing on Saturday nights.
Ethel and Ramone's (1615 Sulgrave Ave.,  664-2971, ethelandramones.com, $$$) There's a reason this Mount Washington café has outlasted many of its neighbors. The Maryland Creole menu mixes bayou flavors with fish from the bay.
Mt. Washington Tavern (5700 Newbury St.,  367-6903, mtwashingtontavern.com) Rebuilt after a devastating fire, the classic tavern may have a new gloss, but the menu, staff, and clientele are like old friends.
Atwater's (529 E. Belvedere Ave.,  323-2396, atwaters.biz, $) Just one in Ned Atwater's rising bread empire, this spot is a great place to meet for a sandwich or bowl of hearty soup.
Greg's Bagels(519 E. Belvedere Ave.,  323-9463, $) A Belvedere Square institution, Greg's has bagels in flavors familiar and unexpected, plus a rainbow of cream cheese and fancy smoked fish.
Neopol Savory Smokery (529 E. Belvedere Ave.,  433-7700, neopolsmokery.com, $$) Smoked fish, salads, and a salmon crepe that we crave. Carry one to Grand Cru next door, and enjoy it with a glass of crisp rosé.
Clementine (5402 Harford Road,  444-1497, bmoreclementine.com, $$$) A passion for charcuterie, hearty food—some with a Southern twang—and a close-knit staff makes a meal feel like visiting family.
Hamilton Tavern (5517 Harford Road,  426-1930, hamiltontavern.com, $$) Local suds, two-fisted burgers, and po'boys, and decor that features dark wood and farm implements. No wonder this is the most popular watering hole in the 'hood.
Maggie's Farm (4341 Harford Road,  254-2376, maggiesfarmmd.com, $$$$) The whimsical name matches the new owners' commitment to what they call "refined peasant cuisine." The chef bought out his Chameleon boss and is doing a darn good job.